K rock Football

Cats pip Dogs in VFL thriller

Zach Guthrie was Geelong’s best in its VFL win over Footscray. (Sports Media Image/Marcel Berens)

GEELONG coach Shane O’Bree praised his side’s perseverance after it ground out a gritty one-point win over high-flying Footscray at Victoria University Whitten Oval on Sunday.

The dour contest was settled by a late behind kicked by Luke Smith after the Bulldogs had led for most of the day.

VFL listed Smith kicked three of the last four scores of the match as the Cats crept in front in the final minute, eventually running out 5.5 (35) to 4.10 (34) winners in wet and windy conditions.

It was Geelong’s third consecutive victory, putting it within touching distance of the top eight.

“As a team we didn’t play as well as we have been playing, but the pleasing thing was we kept on chipping away and trying to play our way,” O’Bree said.

“In the end, it was one of those games where we were just a little bit off around the contest and had some bad bounces.

“We missed a few opportunities, and that hurt us in the first half.

“We had to win the game and the boys were still trying to implement the right structures to get the ball forward and be more attacking and get shots on goal.

“That’s all we needed in the end, and that was the pleasing thing in the last quarter.”

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Geelong appeared to have suffered a big blow late in the first term when Nathan Kreuger was crunched by Fletcher Roberts and left the field groggy.

But Kreuger, who starred with six goals against Coburg a week earlier, returned five minutes into the second quarter and played out the match.

Footscray wasted a string of chances in front of goal in the second term, kicking four consecutive behinds before Callum Porter and Ed Richards broke the goal drought.

Their majors gave the home side an 18-point buffer, but Wylie Buzza and captain James Tsitas returned fire in time-on to trim the margin back to one straight kick at the main break.

Bullocking big man Buzza attempted to lift the Cats in the third term, crashing through packs and causing havoc for the Bulldogs’ defence.

He kicked the only goal of a scrappy third quarter before dark clouds descended and sent the small, yet vocal, crowd scrambling for cover with the home side two points in front at the last change.

Gerard Gleeson gave the Bulldogs some breathing space with his first goal, but Geelong never surrendered.

Smith kicked the goal that gave the Cats a sniff before a rushed behind and Smith’s late point from a set shot saw them over the line.

“It was really tricky conditions in terms of knowing when to control the game and play fast,” O’Bree said.

“We spoke a fair bit about it on Friday night as a team and we thought it would be windier than what it was at the start, but it obviously picked up.

“These are the hardest things at VFL grounds where it could be a six-goal breeze and it’s a different element to what you need to coach at AFL level.”

Experienced midfielder Scott Selwood (21 disposals) and Charlie Constable (19) were busy in the middle for Geelong.

O’Bree was full of praise for Zach Guthrie, who starred in defence.

“I thought he was the standout player on the ground,” O’Bree said.

“He reads the ball so well, sets up well and he’s so composed with the ball.”

The significant challenges keep coming for Geelong, which takes on ladder leader Richmond at the Swinburne Centre (Punt Road Oval) on Saturday.

Twitter: @shayne_hope

GEELONG  1.1, 3.1, 4.2, 5.5 (35)

FOOTSCRAY  1.2, 3.7, 3.10, 4.10 (34)

Goals: Geelong: W. Buzza 2, J. Tsitas, L. Smith, J. Kennerley

Footscray: N. Drummond, E. Richards, G. Gleeson, C. Porter

Best: Geelong: Z. Guthrie, B. Reid, J. Jones, W. Buzza, S. Selwood, C. Floyd

Footscray: F. Roberts, R. West, A. Scott, C. Porter, L. Vandermeer, J. Wallis